So we are part of a blended family now and summer holidays is one of those periods of time when we really hang out together, mostly overseas with all our differences, relationships, emotions and with the fine art of balancing.
With blended families there are many, many different relationships all bouncing off each other and whilst so incredibly rewarding for us all, still a monumental task in diplomacy, patience and mindfully letting those boundaries ease so we can accommodate everyone.
Here are 9 potential trouble spots we avoided on our blended family holiday....
Families on holiday, even the happy marital ones have expectations of how they want their annual summer kick-back time to be - whether it is a need to feel relaxed at the end of it, a shared supportive relationship experience or heightened expectations of a perfect happy holiday.
If ever there are potential weak points that can crack open, expanding crevasse like, it is when you are on holiday and spending lots of time in close proximity. And when headed up by the two parents involved who are not operating as a solid, respectful and loving unit is an invitation to treat with a raising of the the flag of troublesome flags up the discordant flagpole, with separate family battle stations at the ready and THEN a real necessary requirement for a gentle blended family discussion...
You as parents - talk to each other, reassure each other and remember to really LOVE each other - this is always unknown boundary work in progress... and there is definitely a place for ....
Yes, yes and yes - do it, have those tricky conversations about ALL aspects of how this is going to work, before you book your flights even. Better now than half way through the holiday, especially if you are stuck abroad no where else to go. Write that 'wishlist' rule book, talk about the ifs and buts, the worries and concerns. And here is the thing, KNOW that there are always going to be the fast balls appearing even when you least expect them.
For example logistics of babysitting if you and your lovely other half want a romantic dinner for two. Do not be expecting the eldest to shoulder responsibility, a babysitter from the 'other' family is not always going to listened to or respected - so get a baby sitter in or sit out the romantic meal for when you are back... it's about sometimes letting this stuff go....
If you are thinking that no prior conversations about ground rules need to be applied on a blended family holiday or worried about having this chat, you are going to have blended family outcry.
Fussy eaters - try letting it go, cook for what suits everyone with - if you can, healthy, simple recipes. Applying battle station healthy eating rules on holiday for a couple of weeks is not going to make anyone ill, only yourself by stressing about food. If you want to keep things healthy make a joint parental stand about unlimited soft fizzy laden drinks and ice creams - keeping the peace with water is good in hot climates, less expensive for everyone and the kids are a whole load more calmer too.
Sleeping Arrangements and Patterns
With teenagers and younger ones - just knowing that being quiet in the mornings is helpful, if you have teenagers - they don't operate best on early rowdy mornings. Just by getting your kids out of the sleeping areas, down to the pool or outside playing cards - can make a difference - everyone is happier and if you as a couple may not get your cosy morning love ins try practicing acceptance and letting this go for the couple of weeks rather than feeling resigned.
Oh and electronics help too ...
The world as we know it is stuffed full of apps for communicating, games and entertainment... make a conscious decision to limit times for family fun, bring games with you that you can all play - the joys of Go Fish, Cheat and board games cannot be underestimated for family conviviality. There can be many a shared union of laughter, togetherness and joy at all of you sitting around a table all playing together.
Different kids have different energy levels, finding yourself on holiday with energy monkeys can be exhausting. A little forward planning of activities that encompass these different personalities keeps everyone happy. Do not expect everyone to operate the same way, kids will adapt if you BOTH are willing to work at it. Finding parts of the day for everyone to have their busy and quiet time will pay dividends towards a more harmonious blended family holiday.
Male to Female Ratio
So not every blended family gets the kid mix right, finding each other in the world in itself with all the life baggage is a wonder second time round, let alone being with a partner who has children of the same age, sex and temperament. Being mindful of the single daughter in a bunch of boys is important. Letting the girls go off and have dinner or shopping can be wonderfully balancing to the full on boy energy. Equally if there is a single boy the same principles apply.
Ages too are to be taken into account, hanging around a kids play area is not a happy teenager going to make nor is sitting on a sun lounger all day listening to Spotify going to work out male testosterone... a blended family holiday is WORK IN PROGRESS and in truth it doesn't stop.
Time With Your Own Kids
Make time for your kids, especially be aware of blended family'overload'. Don't let it get to the stage where your kids are feeling the effects of not having any time with just you. Listen to them, talk to them, connect to them and spend time on your own with them, just letting them know you are there for them. It is possible for you all to co-exist together in a pool with a couple of different games going on and they know you are there for them.
Talking through stuff with your kids - because it is tough for them too sometimes is really necessary... full on blended family life can be exhausting for everyone... all these personalities bundled together for intense periods of time if not managed well can lead to resistance, a feeling of not being heard and future negativity.
And finally ...
Missing Their Absent Mums or Dads
Be prepared for your little people to miss their other parent. This is okay, it is normal especially if they don't always live with you. It is not because you are doing a bad job - its just that it's their other significant parent who is not around. Be mindful this can happen, they will want to connect, to catch up and perhaps tell them what a great time they are having, that they are simply missing them. Giving yourself and the other children permission to include the other absent parent is important - be prepared for this, support it and see what a difference it makes for the children's well-being.
So why even go on holiday as a blended family? Why put yourselves through the craziness of balancing it all for a potentially monumental diplomatic couple of two weeks, washing up and very little time on your own as a couple? Because my friends you love each other, you care about each other and at some point all these little people in this new family set up are going to be gone, flown the nest and not wanting to be on a family holiday so much any more.
Investing in blended family holidays can be immensely rewarding, with much laughter, fun and inclusion into something really wonderful that is a new fabric of a family holiday.... BLENDED!
With love xx